Nov 23, 2021

In Good Faith: Stuffed With Gratitude

In the Thanksgiving edition of my In Good Faith column, I write about carbs and why this year feels especially filled with gratitude.

Stuffed with Gratitude

It’s finally happening. After years of conformity, our family has at last spoken the silent part out

loud: we don’t love turkey. I mean, we all think it’s “fine.” There’s nothing inherently wrong with it. For years, we’ve gamely forked a bit of white and/or dark meat onto our plates, passed the platter, and politely asked someone to please pass the gravy. But shouldn’t the Super Bowl of feasts arouse culinary excitement and anticipation, rather than a humdrum feels-like-any-other-Thursday vibe?

“But it’s tradition!” you say. Well actually, if you’ll permit me a moment of mansplaining, there was no turkey served at the first Thanksgiving. The predominant dish was freshly killed deer, and there was also a boatload of Cod, which makes sense given the location. Lobster too, apparently, and I’d be happy to fully honor our heritage and go that route, if only everyone in my family ate lobster. And it wasn’t clocking in at $15 a pound. 

Now, don’t get me wrong. Our family isn’t comprised of a bunch of unenthusiastic tradition thwarters. We all love the Thanksgiving side dishes and, of course, the pies. Personally, I’m all about the carbs. The mashed potatoes, the stuffing, the cornbread. Bring. It. On. And I don’t care how low-brow it is, I always insist on Stove Top stuffing. Go ahead and make your fancy stuffing — I’ll probably have some of that too. As long as I get my annual allotment of Stove Top, I’m happy.

Food preferences aside, this year, more than anything, is about the people. We know it’s supposed to be about the people, but food and football often serve as helpful distractions to our respective dysfunctional families. The distasteful political commentary, the old family wounds, the painful shadow and ensuing shame of perfectionism. 

Yet after last year’s Thanksgiving, which left many among us feeling isolated and distanced from family, this year feels different. Yes, we’re still living in the midst of a global pandemic, but vaccines and boosters have allowed us to gather more safely. Nothing is without risk these days, but the mental health benefits of in-person gatherings, with proper precautions taken, are well documented. We need one another, and it is a good and joyful thing to gather together.

As you do so, please remember our Native American siblings for whom this day is remembered less as a day of gratitude and more as a day of mourning. Those feelings of isolation and distance which we felt last year are experienced every year by indigenous people throughout this nation. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t gather and feast, but it does mean approaching the table with historical perspective and the awareness that our actions have consequences. Giving thanks to God and being grateful for the bounty that surrounds us can and should incorporate the tears of those who mourn. Which only adds depth and realism to our day of gratitude. 

Of course, family being family, it took forever to agree on a substitute main dish. All sorts of proposals were floated from Cornish hen to filet mignon to Chicken McNuggets. In the end, we all agreed on the ultimate comfort food: homemade chicken pot pie. I can live with that. So hold the turkey; but please do pass the carbs.

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